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Downtown Old Bisbee-Brewery Gulch-Favorite Things To Do In Bisbee AZ .jpg


The history of Bisbee, Arizona is one of mining, growth, and prosperity. In 1877, a group of army scouts and cavalrymen were sent to search the Mule Mountains for renegade Apaches. However, it was civilian tracker Jack Dunn who discovered signs of lead, copper, and silver mineralization. This led to the staking of the first mining claim by George Warren, which sparked a rush of prospectors and speculators to the area. Many rich ore bodies were located, and Bisbee soon became known as the "Queen of the Copper Camps."

During this time, the Arizona Territory was a vast and sparsely populated area that was hostile in terms of weather, terrain, and the natives that had called the area home for centuries. Mineral development had been slow since the 1860s, and rich strikes were often abandoned due to hostilities with Apache tribes, not to be rediscovered until many years later. These circumstances resulted in prospectors often working with the military, and sometimes it was the troops themselves that made the discoveries.

The initial settlement in the Warren Mining District was called Mule Gulch, and the focus of the miners at that time was gold and silver. The area was too remote to develop and transport copper ore, and the nationwide demand for copper was not yet strong enough to warrant large investments in remote copper mines. However, this situation changed rapidly with the advent of electrification in the early 1880s.

In August of 1880, the Copper Queen Mine was capitalized for $2.5 million dollars, and the Mule Gulch camp was renamed Bisbee after DeWitt Bisbee, a San Francisco attorney and one of the Copper Queen investors. The Phelps Dodge Company entered the Bisbee mining scene in 1881 with James Douglas and the purchase of the Atlanta claim, and in 1885, the company merged the Atlanta with the adjacent Copper Queen. The resulting operation would become the second-largest producer of copper in the nation during the last two decades of the 1800s, behind the Anaconda operation in Butte, Montana.

With the success of its copper mines and the arrival of the railroad in 1889, Bisbee experienced rapid growth. From 1899 to 1918, the town's population grew from around 4,000 to a peak of over 25,000 residents (this figure includes all the towns in the district including Warren and Lowell). In 1902, the year that Bisbee was incorporated, the population stood at around 8,000. However, with little vegetation to slow the cascade of water during the summer monsoon season, disastrous floods became a common occurrence.

With prosperity came an increased population and the need for sanitation, clean water, medical care, building codes, and fire protection. On January 9, 1902, a city charter was approved, and the City of Bisbee was incorporated. A temporary city council was formed and went to work on these sorely needed civic improvements. While the Bisbee of the late 1800s was described as a dirty and raucous town, after 1900 many changes took place that improved conditions in the town.

By 1905, two more copper mines, the Calumet and Arizona and the Shattuck-Arizona, were operating, and Bisbee had transitioned into one of the great industrial cities of the West. The Cochise County seat was relocated from Tombstone to Bisbee in 1929, cementing the town's importance in the region. Today, visitors to Bisbee can see the remnants of its rich mining history, including the historic Queen Mine Tour and the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum.

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